Japan’s postseason began on Saturday with rookie rocket Roki Sasaki pitching the PL opener for the Lotte Marines against the Rakuten Eagles’ Takahiro Norimoto in Chiba, while tough Hanshin Tigers lefty Haruto Takahashi faced Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano at Koshien Stadium.
Parsing Tsuyoshi “big boss” Shinjo
Some of you have caught up with the wild Tsuyoshi Shinjo introductory press conference that masqueraded as reality TV. It was a lot to swallow, and as I transcribed and translated.
I often had to chuckle and gasp. But I’ve now had two full days to think about it, and here are my thoughts. I come here not to praise or bury Shinjo, but to explain him.
Marines 5, Eagles 4
At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, Adeiny Hechavarria welcomed Yuki Matsui back to action with two outs in the eighth with a game-tying solo homer. Naoya Masuda pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to earn the win, and Toshiya Sato doubled with one out in the ninth to plate Hiromi Oka from second and win it.
Roki Sasaki allowed one run, on his own second-inning throwing error, and struck out 10, three that helped him pitch out of a bases-loaded jam in the third. Three days after his 20th birthday, Sasaki threw his fastest pitch as a pro, 159 kph, in the first inning but left with no decision after Yuki Kuniyoshi blew up the lead in the seventh inning.
Hiroaki Shimauchi doubled and scored the first run when Sasaki air-mailed an easy throw to first.
Takahiro Norimoto worked out of a two-on one-out jam in the first but two hits and a walk in the third ruined his start. With one out and the bases loaded after Shogo Nakamura beat out his second single, a high 2-0 cutter ran onto the barrel of Brandon Laird’s bat and he lined it to left for a two-run single.
A fly to medium-deep left scored the Marines’ third run when Nakamura scrambled home past a short-hopped throw.
Kuniyoshi took the mound in the seventh, a walk and his own error put two on with no outs. The big right-hander than sprinted forward to catch a popped-up bunt before running the other way to second for an unassisted double play. But two more walks loaded the bases and Shimauchi, who led the PL in RBIs, doubled in all three to put Rakuten on top.
Matsui took the mound in the eighth in his first game since feeling discomfort in his left elbow on Aug. 20. The lefty got two quick outs, but Hechavarria put a good swing on a good high fastball to tie it. Sung Chia-hao, who’s done the lions’ share of closing in Matsui’s absence, hit Hiromi Oka to open the inning. After a sacrifice, Sato ended it with a double to the gap.
-Lotte leads the best-of-three first stage, 1-0, and can clinch with a tie.
Giants 4, Tigers 0
At Koshien Stadium, Tomoyuki Sugano allowed two hits and a walk and hit a batter while striking out four over seven innings, and Zelous Wheeler had a hand in all four Yomiuri runs.
Haruto Takahashi faced the minimum through four innings. Yoshihiro Maru opened with a leadoff single in the fifth. Wheeler sacrificed him to second and Maru scored after singles by Hiroyuki Nakajima and Naoki Yoshikawa.
With two outs in the sixth, Hayato Sakamoto singled, Maru walked, and a Wheeler double made it 3-0. Seiya Matsubara doubled to open the eighth against Masaki Oyokawa and scored on Wheeler’s two-out single.
The Tigers stranded two runners in the eighth and left the bases loaded in the ninth, when Seishu Hatake relieved Thyago Vieira with two outs to get pinch-hitter Fumihito Haraguchi to line out and end the game.
-Yomiuri leads the best-of-three series 1-0, and can clinch with one more win or two ties.
Marines vs Eagles: Zozo Marine Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Tigers vs Giants: Koshien Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT